Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Apr 25 2008

Forbidden Kingdom

I just got back from seeing The Forbidden Kingdom. My main reason for going to see it, besides liking martial arts films, was to see the historic first on-screen pairing of Jet Li and Jackie Chan. If the fight scene between the two is all you’re there for, you won’t be disappointed; I just about cried out in joy. In fact, most of the fight choreography in the film is good, thanks to Yuen Wo-ping, but Li and Chan’s stuff is just brilliant, especially for those of us who have seen countless movies by them both throughout their careers and wondering what they would look like fighting together.

Of course it’s all carefully orchestrated not to show a clear winner between the two. Even the the opening credits, their names appear at the same time, linked together by sharing the “J” at the beginning of their names on the screen. It’s obvious that the producers of the film took great pains to make sure the two got equal billing and screen time. In fact, it seems that the purported protagonist of the film, Jason Tripitikas, played by Michael Angarano, was pretty much ignored throughout. The result is that the story is not told from any particular point of view, and not even the director seems to care what the protagonist of the film is thinking in more than a cursory fashion.

Aside from the choreography, the music, cinematography, editing and art direction of the film are all excellent. The writing, however, is pretty awful, and the story told as an afterthought. If the people making the film had given Jason not only more lines, but better lines, even some character development that didn’t depend on other people making remarks about what we should have seen, it could have been a compelling story. Jason speaks gratingly poor Chinese throughout the movie, seemingly unrelated to the motions of his lips. Either Angarano’s Chinese was too fluent for him to be a “believable foreigner” or it was simply unintelligible and had to be looped, (but looped badly? Is there any reason for that? Maybe it’s just the Taiwan version that’s like that?). A few sardonic remarks. maybe in English, a couple of witty asides as he goes through his miraculous training, could have gone a long way in fleshing out his character. As it is, there’s simply nothing in the character to latch onto.

Chan and Li are the real stars of the film, and they both do a good job. Li makes a surprisingly good Monkey, I have to say. But in the end it feels more like an American Hollywood production with a pseudo-Chinese veneer than anything else. It could have been a great film, alas. Reports say that Jet Li and Jackie Chan enjoyed working together so much they’re thinking of doing more. I hope they get a chance to work with better writers and directors when they do so. Perhaps the US involvement in this project was considered “neutral ground” for the two stars to cooperate on, but I’d like to see what they can do under a Chinese director.

posted by Poagao at 12:32 pm  


  1. I KNOW! What about pairing Jackie Chan with… with… CHRIS ROCK! Now THAT would be match made in heaven. I wonder why they haven’t thought of that?

    Comment by sandman — April 26, 2008 @ 12:19 am

  2. Nah, Jackie Chan’s already got Chris Tucker. That means Jet Li gets to pair up with Chris Rock. I can’t wait.

    Comment by Poagao — April 28, 2008 @ 4:32 am

  3. Hey, that was my idea…

    Comment by Prince Roy — April 28, 2008 @ 5:49 am

  4. Was it? Then get blogging! You’re behind!

    Comment by Poagao — April 28, 2008 @ 5:53 am

  5. man, if I had twitter you’d be so in for it.

    Comment by Prince Roy — April 28, 2008 @ 11:59 am

  6. Ah, but ya don’t, do ya! See?

    Comment by Poagao — April 28, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

  7. “If the fight scene between the two is all you’re there for, you won’t be disappointed” … I’m in 😉 Great review

    Comment by Ashish — April 29, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment